Radio daignosis

Scoliosis conditions are detect early and monitor frequently, thanks to the portable imaging system develop by PolyU’s experts in scoliosis research. The first-of-its-kind palm-sized 3-D ultrasound imaging system for radiation-free scoliosis assessment, name Scolioscan Air makes possible accurate, safe and cost-efficient mass screening. Scoliosis is one of the most prevalent spinal diseases affecting adolescents.

Portable imaging system

It is estimated that about 3% to 5% of adolescents in Hong Kong suffer from scoliosis; with increasing prevalence in recent years. A recent study in Guangzhou indicated that for girls aged 14 and 15, the prevalence is as high as 13.8%. About 15 percent of the adolescents with scoliosis would experience deteriorating conditions; and bracing or surgery would be require when spinal curves progress to moderate or severe status.

Early detection of scoliosis conditions and regular check-up during the rapid growth of adolescent school children is thus crucial. At present, X-ray imaging is the clinical gold standard for scoliosis assessment, but radiation exposure may pose increase risk for cancer. Ir Professor Zheng Yong-ping, Head of BME and Henry G. Leong Professor in Biomedical Engineering, who led the research, said Scolioscan Air is an advanced system based on the PolyU-developed 3-D ultrasound imaging technology under the trademark “Scolioscan” (weighed about 150 kg).

Rapid growth of adolescent

Scolioscan was successfully commercialised into a clinical facility in 2016. Being radiation-free and more cost-effective than prevailing X-ray imaging technologies; Scolioscan can facilitate mass screening and frequent follow-up monitoring. Clinical trials have proven the technology is reliable; with accuracy of curve measurement comparable to X-ray assessment.

Moreover, it can obtain images in any posture, provide vertebra rotation and muscle-related information, and form a 3-D spinal model for the three-dimensional analysis of spinal deformity. Scolioscan can also be use to conduct prognosis and monitoring treatment outcomes for each scoliosis patient to establish a personalised treatment plan.

The research team has recently developed a portable palm-sized Scolioscan Air weighing only 5 kg. “With this innovation, we can now bring the device and mass screening service to youngsters anywhere; anytime. It facilitates the implementation of school-based scoliosis screening to detect and treat spinal curvatures before they become severe enough to cause chronic pain or other health issues among adolescents,” said Professor Zheng.

Muscle-related information

“Moreover, when providing non-surgical treatment for scoliosis patients, healthcare personnel can use Scolioscan Air to conduct real-time assessment; so as to optimise the treatment outcome.” Scolioscan Air consists of three hardware components: (i) a palm-sized wireless ultrasound probe with an optical marker mounted at its bottom; (ii) a depth camera; and (iii) a laptop or tablet computer with dedicated software.
The compact optical marker and depth camera replace the spatial sensor used in Scolioscan and thus help dramatically downsize the device. In addition; the technology for 3-D ultrasound image reconstruction; visualisation and measurement, including a fully automatic curvature measurement method and 3-D spinal deformity analysis software; develop by the team earlier can also be apply to Scolioscan Air.
The newly developed optical 3-D spatial tracking method for Scolioscan Air achieves a high degree of accuracy comparable with Scolioscan. Moreover, the technological compatibility makes Scolioscan Air readily available for commercialisation for popular use. With dramatically reduced material cost; size and weight compared with other scanning systems, Scolioscan Air can be carried within a suitcase.